When Ghislaine Maxwell leaves Manhattan federal court at the end of each day of her upcoming sex abuse trial, the British socialite will return to a Brooklyn jail cell she says is plagued by vermin and the stench of raw sewage.
ince her July 2020 arrest on charges of grooming under-age girls for the late financier Jeffrey Epstein to sexually abuse, Maxwell has been held in isolation at the Metropolitan Detention Centre (MDC), a jail where, according to several defence attorneys, conditions are sub-standard.
Ms Maxwell has said raw sewage seeped into her cell, that she was given mouldy food and deprived of water, and that guards shine flashlights at her at night, court filings show. Her lawyer, Bobbi Sternheim, compared her cell to Hannibal Lecter’s, a far cry from her pre-arrest life of luxury.
Ms Maxwell cited the jail’s conditions in three of her four bail requests, all of which were denied by US District Judge Alison Nathan, who called her a flight risk.
Ms Maxwell has pleaded not guilty to six counts of sex trafficking and other crimes. Jury selection is under way, with opening statements scheduled for November 29.
The close watch guards keep on Ms Maxwell comes after Epstein died by suicide in 2019 in his cell at another jail.
Prosecutors have said surveillance of Ms Maxwell is appropriate due to security concerns, that she is “physically healthy” and she gets more time than other inmates to review evidence.
Still, Ms Sternheim called Ms Maxwell’s detention “overly restrictive”. “Her conditions of confinement significantly impede her ability to prepare for trial, negatively impact her health and compromise her stamina to endure the rigours of trial,” Ms Sternheim wrote in a November 9 filing.
A US Bureau of Prisons spokesperson declined to comment on Ms Maxwell’s conditions, but said it was committed to inmates’ safety.
Ms Maxwell’s concerns are part of a history of complaints about conditions at MDC, which holds 1,676 inmates.
Several defence lawyers say the centre’s medical care, utilities and recreational programming are deficient.
“It’s a miserable place to do time,” said David Patton, attorney-in-chief at Federal Defenders of New York.
Defence lawyer Katie Rosenfeld said: “They can’t even keep basic utilities running.”